A new road and pedestrian plaza are among the conceptual designs under consideration in a study of traffic solutions for Buckhead’s notorious “triangle” intersection at Roswell, Piedmont, Habersham and Blackland roads. All of the concepts could require demolition of some local businesses.

Planners with Kimley-Horn and Associates unveiled the concepts at a May 21 meeting at Peachtree Presbyterian Church as part of a design process funded by the Buckhead Community Improvement District. A final report and recommendation is expected in September, with no guarantee any design will get funded and built.

The “triangle” intersection of Roswell, Piedmont and Habersham roads as seen in a Google Earth map. Blackland Road feeds into the intersection as well.

Previous public input meetings last year included calls for a broader approach to solutions, since much of the traffic choking the complicated intersection is commuter-based. All of the designs involve some direct alternative transportation improvements: wider sidewalks, bicycle lanes and room for improved stops for MARTA’s Route 5 bus. Larger solutions will be mentioned in the study, but are beyond its design scope: mass transit improvements, traffic calming devices in local neighborhoods, and redevelopment geared toward more local workers living there.

“Those people are coming here no matter what we do…,” said Sean Johnston, a Kimley-Horn planner, about commuters during a presentation to a group of about 45 residents and officials. “To reduce the overall traffic, we’ve got to find other ways to get people to Buckhead.”

A group of more than 25 “stakeholders” privately reviewed the concepts in March, Johnston said. That stakeholders group, which will continue its review, includes residents, local government and nonprofit officials, some property owners, and representatives of the city and the Georgia Department of Transportation. Piedmont and Roswell are state routes.

The group and the planners already discarded three alternative concepts as impractical, Johnston said. They included turning the intersection into dual roundabouts; realigning Roswell and Piedmont into a large X-shaped intersection; and running Blackland in a tunnel beneath Roswell.

That leaves a series of variations on two alternatives generally known as “1” and “2.” The Alternative 1 series largely keeps the intersections the same and focuses on making Blackland a right-turn only in and out.

The Alternative 2 series involves a bigger change. The current Piedmont-Rowell intersection would disappear, replaced with a pedestrian plaza. What is now a leg of Habersham between Roswell and Piedmont would become the new, realigned Piedmont.

Concept maps show the Alternative 2 series would require demolishing a small shopping center within the triangle called Buckhead Pointe, containing a Piedmont Urgent Care and other businesses. The pedestrian plaza could take more, including a Tin Lizzy’s restaurant and a watch store.

Both series of conceptual designs have a version where Habersham is extended north of Piedmont, cutting through the existing Tuxedo Festival shopping center, and intersecting with Roswell across from Powers Ferry Road. Much of the shopping center apparently would be demolished and presumably redeveloped. Tony Peters of the BCID said shopping center owner EDENS is on board with that idea – Herbert Ames, one of its vice presidents, is on the BCID board – while other property owners have not been involved in discussions yet.

Kimley-Horn is now studying four alternatives – three vetted by the stakeholder group, and a fourth proposed by GDOT. They include:

Alternative 1A

Alternative 1A. (John Ruch)

Largely the same configuration as today, but with the Habersham extension to Powers Ferry, and the turning restrictions on Blackland.

Alternative 2

Alternative 2. (John Ruch)

This is the concept of realigning the Piedmont/Roswell intersection and creating a pedestrian plaza. In addition, today’s spur of Old Ivy Road would be fully connected to Roswell.

Alternative 2A

Alternative 2A. (John Ruch)

Similar to Alternative 2, but including the Habersham extension to Powers Ferry.

Alternative 2B

Alternative 2B. (John Ruch)

Suggested by GDOT, this alternative is similar to 2A. But it would make southbound Roswell and northbound Habersham one-way only, in a kind of giant loop dubbed the “one-way pair” concept. This concept is still in rougher form than the other alternatives and “not ready for prime time,” Johnston said. “We’re not sure it works” and its width raises some urban design concerns, he said.

The stakeholders group’s preference of alternatives, in order, was 2A, 1A and 2, Johnston said. They had not yet reviewed 2B.

Residents at the meeting expressed some concerns about the larger commuter traffic issues and whether more local develop would help or hurt. The taking of commercial properties was raised as a concern by some residents as well.

Attendees could fill out comment sheets. Those who did not attend and want to comment will have to wait for the materials to appear on the BCID website, buckheadcid.com, which will happen by May 31, Peters said.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.